The 'Bluey' parenting hack
Caitlin on Feb. 17, 2023
How to start those tricky conversations when your kids are young
My daughter is currently four years old and some of the things she watches are a bit like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. She also re-watches the same films over and over again – I am fairly confident that I could run a one-person production of Frozen at this point. It feels like the options are slim for what we can mātaki tahi – watch together. BUT we have managed to find a series that we can both enjoy (and it’s roughly only 7 minutes per episode).
Yes! I am talking about the Australian animated series Bluey. I am assuming that this a favourite in a lot Kiwi homes who have younger tamariki. The first season is currently on Neon who self-rated it G: Suitable for general audiences.
The show follows Bluey, a six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy who is full of energy, imagination and curiosity of the world. She lives with her father, Bandit; mother, Chilli; and younger sister, Bingo. The series is mainly about Bluey and Bingo’s adventures, with a strong focus on family and growing up.
For the most part, it is a silly show that teaches tamariki how to play and learn. However, I find the parent characters very refreshing and relatable. Bandit’s constructive parenting and the ways he navigates raising two young girls with kindness and humour is awesome. Chilli’s calmness, poise and mocking nature (of Bandit) is so relatable. They aren’t perfect parents but that’s what makes them so likable. Like us, they are just doing their best raising their kids (puppies) in the modern day.
During an episode my daughter and I don’t talk much but we do laugh together, and exchange glances whenever one of the characters says or does something funny or naughty. There is something quite special finding something genuinely funny on screen with your tamariki. I love seeing her enjoyment and watching her process the jokes that no longer go over her head. Parenting is hard, but it’s also so cool in moments like these.
When it ends I ask her a few questions:
- Who was your favourite character in this episode?
- What was the funniest joke?
- Who did something maybe a bit wrong?
- What did they learn?
It might seem like I am just affirming the messages of the show, but what I am also doing is encouraging her to think critically about what she is watching.
It is so tiring lying awake at night feeling guilty for letting your tamariki have more screen time, which is why I have realised my biggest parenting hack is to pick one show that we can mātaki tahi – watch together. Screen time is impossible to avoid so it comes down to making sure your tamariki are watching safely and in a way that works for your whānau.
Another great thing is that you can easily apply the above questions and conversation starters to other series or films you watch with them now or later on in life.
For example, if you’re watching a Harry Potter film with older tamariki, these questions would prompt them to think about what the characters are like. Are they good or bad? Were there some light moments or did they focus mainly on the more serious or scary scenes?
Giving them the tools to identify what is wrong and right when it’s more obvious (Voldemort – bad, Harry Potter – good) means that when films and series start to get a bit more complex, your children are naturally prompted to consider themes, characters and the film’s overall intentions.
Screen time is almost becoming a negative buzzword filled with guilt and neglect, but when we make our way through the noise it is nice for us parents to remember it is a time to learn and enjoy alongside the whole whānau.
The script or questions you ask your tamariki might change as they get older but I can pretty much guarantee that if you always have a series on the go and make time for those conversations, in turn the chats will become more fluid. You might even find that your tamariki beat you to it and ask you similar questions.
While writing this, I am reminded of when Bandit says “is there some game where I just lie really still on a comfy bed or something?” which I think we all can relate to. Parenting is constant, amazing but relentless and all we want to do is lie down and go to sleep. The reality is that parenting continues when a device is turned on and when we push play. We need to work out how to be the biggest advocate for our tamariki – especially considering how fast technology is developing and becoming a part of every moment of the day.
The experts say that kids should have limited screen time, they should only watch educational things and you need to have your eyes on what they are watching at all times. Here at the Office we get that this is not realistic. Instead of lying awake tonight going over what you would have changed about your parenting day, pick a series that you can watch and kōrero with your tamariki, and feel ka pai about that time together.
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